SINCE JANUARY, more than 1,750 migrants have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean Sea. That is more than 30 times higher than during the same period last year, according to the International Organization for Migration. The United Nations estimated that, as of the end of May, 90,000 migrants had come across the Mediterranean into Europe so far in 2015.
Last summer, Christian Peacemaker Teams, an international NGO that places unarmed intervention teams in situations of conflict to reduce violence, launched CPT-Mediterranean on the Greek island of Lesbos to support migrants arriving by sea. I served with that team and heard survivors’ stories firsthand. So what is going on?
Eleven million people were displaced by violence last year, according to The New York Times, most driven out of Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, and Afghanistan. However, tens of thousands are also pushed north from sub-Saharan Africa, fleeing desperate poverty and violence. It’s the worst migration crisis since World War II, according to the United Nations.
In the past, most migrants into the European Union came by land. In Greece, they entered along the border with Turkey. In 2012, Greece built a fence along the Turkish border to stop migrants and refugees from coming into the country. This forced migrants to enter Europe along Greece’s border with Bulgaria. In 2014, a fence was erected there too, effectively cutting off a primary land route into the European Union.